The Taoiseach’s apology for sexual abuse of schoolchildren by teachers and others is welcome.
But why two Taoiseach’s apologies in the Dáil, Enda Kenny’s five years ago and Leo Varadkar’s on July 9? Their saying sorry is consequent on losing court cases.
After the Court of Human rights found for Louise O’Keeffe in 2014, Enda Kenny apologised.
The State then subverted the court decision as it applied to other claimants. That cruel strategy involved “an inherent inversion of logic and a fundamental unfairness”, said Justice Iarfhlath O’Neill on July 8.
The more important question relates to the object of the State, in denying responsibility for abuse in schools it funded (including teachers’ salaries), whose curriculum and systems of examination were determined by ministers.
The answer lies in the pact the State made with Churches in licensing and funding them to carry out State functions, while disclaiming responsibility for failures.
The State has attempted to make its agents take all the blame for mismanaged schemes of education, welfare and health.
The strategy was exposed in the early 2000s by payment of redress compensation to abuse victims of industrial schools and orphanages. It was simultaneously obscured by an argument over whether dominant Roman Catholic Church organisations, alone of all the licensed providers, had paid sufficiently into a State indemnity fund.
Failure to hold the State to account then made possible unfairness later, in refusing redress after the 2014 O’Keeffe judgement to those who were sexually abused in school. This was on the catch-22 basis that alleged abusers had not been subject to a prior complaint, in a context where no system of complaint making existed.
The Taoiseach’s apology was accompanied by a curious formulation. The criteria struck down by Justice O’Neill derived from an “honourable intention” of “protecting the taxpayer” from paying “for things they were not responsible for”.
This is more inverted logic. Taxpayers, in general, did not abuse children, licensed agents of the State did. The taxpayer is paying for the state’s irresponsibility in failing to adequately safeguard children from abuse within the education system.
Conor O’Mahony of UCC’s Child Law Clinic is therefore all too correct in his criticisms of our State continuing to split hairs (Examiner, July 10).
As he points out, the only acceptable criteria for access to a redress scheme is a credible claim of having been abused. All else is irrelevant.
- Niall Meehan
Faculty head, Journalism & Media